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Air Force nuclear missile base guards relieved amid marijuana investigation

Staff Sgt. Glen Brott rappels down a breached personnel access hatch while Staff Sgt. Scott Shirley provides security during a launch facility recapture exercise Feb. 18, 2014, at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
February 12, 2020

Several U.S. Air Force security guards tasked with guarding strategic nuclear missile sites at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wy. have come under investigation over allegations they have been using marijuana.

Gen. Tim Ray, the top general in charge of Air Force nuclear weapons, made a “no-notice” visit to the base to address reports of drug use at the base, the Associated Press reported on Monday. The Air Force indicated it had removed those security team members from their duties, pending an investigation of their alleged marijuana use.

“The majority of our airmen are exceptional and have made significant gains in ensuring excellence and adhering to exacting standards,” Ray said, according to an Air Force Global Strike Command statement. “But we will not give up one inch of this hard-earned ground. When any of us see those not living up to our high standards, we will hold them accountable using all of the disciplinary tools available under the military justice system.”

The Air Force would not disclose the number of airmen under investigation, or other details about the incidents in question, so as to “uphold investigative integrity.”

The 90th Security Forces Group is responsible for guarding the base, which houses nuclear missiles including the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The security force is also stationed at bases in western Nebraska, and northeastern Colorado.

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Members of the 90th Security Forces Group have come under scrutiny in the past. Investigators uncovered an alleged drug ring had emerged within the security force, including six members who were convicted for either using or distributing the hallucinogenic substance LSD. In total, 14 airmen were disciplined following the investigative incident.

Air Force nuclear missile bases in Montana and North Dakota have also reportedly come under scrutiny for reports of misconduct and training failures.

All military branches prohibit the use of marijuana, though it is legal for medical and even recreational use in some states. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) has a zero-tolerance stance for drug use.

“We are an ICBM base. The use of illicit drugs, including marijuana, although it might be legal elsewhere, they are prohibited from using it,” Capt. James Fisher said in comments reported by the Washington Examiner. “We understand that Colorado is just a few minutes away, and it is legal there, however, again, here’s a reminder of what the UCMJ says.”

Following past incidents of misconduct in the 90th Security Forces Group, the U.S. Air Force has invested in more in equipment and training its nuclear forces, as well as launching a campaign to instill the importance of the responsibility entrusted to its nuclear forces.